When it comes to silently gliding across the water, kayaking was my first love. I grew up inland in the south Okanagan but every summer of my young adult years I would venture to Vancouver Island to visit my Dad and family. The highlight of the trip was always kayaking on the ocean. I loved it and looked forward to it every year. A few years later my step-dad got into kayaking in a big way. In fact, the boat I have now is his first boat. We kayak on the Shuswap every summer, hit the Thompson river and explored Clayquot sound in Tofino. The experience of flowing with the currents from the cockpit of a kayak was unmatched. Until last summer…
As a kayaker I watched as paddleboarding took over the lakes of the Okanagan. And we weren’t alone. Stand-up paddleboarding – better known as SUP – has become the fasting growing sport in a decade. People of all shapes and sizes were taking to the waters aboard a SUP. Paddle in hand and testing their balance I watched and tried to understand the appeal. You see, I saw kayaking as a more stable, more comfortable, more efficient, and frankly, a more cool way of water travel.
Normally I am an early adopter when it comes to sports. I jumped on the shape ski, and later the fat ski craze. I bought a full suspension downhill bike as soon as they hit the market. But not SUP. I resisted. In part because I was invested in kayaking and I think it was tied to so many memories I cherished.
My first experience with SUP was not a good one and it prolonged my getting into it another two years. I rented a board with my sister and her husband. They were in town and wanted to experience the latest trend taking the lakes by storm. So off we went on some less than quality rental boards and ill-fitted paddles. Balance wasn’t an issue but the paddling felt awkward. I ended up with a huge knot in my back that lasted for weeks. Back into the kayak I went.
August of 2017 – it was a smoky one in my neck of the woods. We were in the midst of an epic fire season which made strenuous outdoor activity not that inviting. We were headed up to the end of Seymor Arm on the Shuswap for a little WIFI-free camping. My friend Randi (also the Marketing Director for VPO) lent me her paddle board with the intention of taking some pics to use in VPO’s marketing. We popped it in the truck but made sure our trusty kayak was on the roof. Day one we pumped up the board, dropped it in the lake and went for a paddle. Five hours later we would return.
I was hooked. Maybe it was having a quality board or a good paddle that was fit properly. Or it could be that I had my three year old son with me riding on the nose of the board and I was overcome with his sense of wonder. Whatever it was I knew that we needed a SUP in our quiver of summer toys.
On that first day at the remote end of Seymor Arm we explored the estuary, paddled to the store, explored the beaches, paddled out in to the middle of the lake and floated and a essentially got to know this new sport of paddleboarding. The balance and confidence I had surprised me. I was instantly comfortable and enjoyed the new perspective I had. Being above the lake looking down was an entirely new experience in contrast to sitting in a kayak. I always liked being close to the water in my boat but now that I was up high I felt like I could see everything. We could see fish down below and then look up and see far off in the distance. I can see why paddlers on the ocean like catching waves on a SUP. They are so easy to see coming when standing up.
After our five hour voyage my son and his buddies played around on the SUP. They would paddle, float and eventually discover that a SUP is the perfect platform for jumping off of! They would all try to climb on and then jump off together laughing the entire time. Their latest game is trying to run the length of the board and jumping off. Nothing makes a parent feel warm and fuzzy than sitting on the beach watching and hearing your children having the time of their life. Living in the moment.
Day two on the board and we were off again. This time only for three hours! And my wife and her friends joined in the fun. The craze continues and the growth rate of SUP in Canada just grew by another three people. Later that day were did the photo shoot we had brought the SUP along with is for. It drew some attention to say the least for I was dressed as Santa and was attempting to do SUP yoga! Needless to say, the children on the beach were very confused. As a side note, Santa’s suit is NOT waterproof and gets really heavy when wet. My photographer friend Geoff’s kids now legitimately think that I am Santa. I can’t wait for them to submit their list this Christmas.
It was now September and time to give ‘my’ board back to Randi. I did only borrow it after all. Shortly after returning it I made a deal with Randi and the board was now mine. Christmas time came and I wrapped it up as a gift to our family from good ol Santa (I am him of course). Noah saw it Christmas day and his memory was flooded with our time on the SUP back in the summer. He was stoked as was I about the upcoming season.
Kayaking hasn’t taken a back seat in my life. I still love it and paddled during the winter months. I made a commitment to paddle every month this year whether it be on a SUP or in my kayak. My first paddle of 2018 is in my boat during an epic snow storm. I got some weird looks but it was an amazing experience. We have been out on the SUP several times this season and plan to make good use of it. We only have one board right now but are saving our loonies for a second!
My SUP Board
I chose to buy the Red Paddle Co Active 10-8. It is designed as an exercise/yoga board so it is a little wider and more stable. Ideally I would like a longer and faster board but figured this was the perfect one for getting the family into the sport. Being wider and not having tie-down straps on the front makes it easy and comfortable for our young kids to ride along.
Inflatable vs Solid
I wrestled with this decision for a while. Go inflatable SUP or not? After much research I learned that Red Paddle Co has perfected the inflatable design. Their jump stitch technique and baffle design make for a board that is indistinguishable from a solid board once inflated. Inflation time is roughly 5 minutes and deflation takes mere minutes. The pump has two settings one for high volume to get you close to full and one for low-volume that finishes off the inflation with little effort. During the summer months I leave the board inflated only topping it up when necessary. For travel I deflate and pop it in the easy to carry SUP bag. Simple.
If you have kids or dogs or are paddling in areas with an abundance of rocks or rough terrain, I highly recommend an inflatable. It takes a beating whereas a solid board can get dinged really easily.
SUP Paddle Choice
I went with the Werner ZEN 85 SUP paddle. Mostly because I have always used Werner paddles for kayaking and I am fairly brand loyal. Once I find a company I like I tend to stick with it. Still, I researched paddle choices and came back to the Werner product. The Zen 85 has an 85 square inch surface area making for good water displacement while feeling light in the water. But what I really liked about the Zen 85 what their LeverLock technology. It does away with those silly pinch locks that are especially difficult to adjust with wet hands. The LeverLock is a tension system that adjusts with the flip of a clip in the top of the handle. You then slide it to the desired length and off you go. It works wonderfully since I share a paddle with my wife who is 9” shorter than me but I also find myself adjusting on the go depending on water conditions.